Q: From Billy Budd to Bleak House, to Scott Turow’s and John Grisham’s procedural thrillers, the practice of law has long offered a rich framework for tale-telling. Is it the human thirst for justice that makes it so compelling? Or our natural empathy for people in a predicament? What is it?
A: I don’t think many people associate the practice of law with the thirst for justice. There’s a deep suspicion of the legal profession, with some reason. But we are all fascinated by people in trouble, be it legal trouble, medical trouble, whatever… A lot of that is the old “there but for the grace of God” thing. We love to contemplate the misfortune of others, and it is indeed a misfortune to be caught up in the legal system.
The law is mysterious, complex, powerful, frightening, central to the possibility of freedom, compelling, a perfect subject for the scribbler. My new book about lawyers, Bay Street, is intended to be entertaining, fun to read, but you will notice it has a dark side. Remember, the first book I wrote was called Lawyers Gone Bad!
—Philip Slayton is the author of numerous books, including the new novel Bay Street. A Rhodes scholar and former corporate lawyer, he is now the President of PEN Canada. You can learn more about him at www.philipslayton.com.